On August 29, Kazakhstan celebrated the 30th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in 1991. The country has stated its intention to promote nuclear non-proliferation. Decree № 409 “On the Closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site” was signed by then President of the Kazakh SSR, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The test site 170 km from the city of Semipalatinsk was established on August 21, 1947 by a decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. An industrial nuclear reactor and a radiochemical plant for the production of weapons-grade plutonium were built nearby. In 1949, the first Soviet RDS-1 atomic bomb was tested here, and in 1953, the first thermonuclear bomb. In total, during 1949-1989, at least 468 tests were conducted near Semipalatinsk (25% of all nuclear weapons tests in the world).
1.3 million people who took part in the tests or lived near the test site were identified as casualties. The environment was severely damaged (4.5 thousand square kilometers of territory became deserted), because until 1963 all nuclear explosions were above ground.
The closing date of the Semipalatinsk test site is marked as the International Day of Action against Nuclear Tests, established by UN General Assembly Resolution 64/35 of 2 December 2009.
On the occasion of the anniversary, the US State Department issued a congratulatory message: “The United States congratulates Kazakhstan on the 30th anniversary of the closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear weapons test site. The decision to close Semipalatinsk demonstrated a clear commitment to nuclear security and nonproliferation. Kazakhstan’s momentous decision on Semipalatinsk was the first in a series of vital measures aiming to achieve a more peaceful world.”